I’m 55 and have been an atheist for as long as I can remember. Throughout my life I’ve had to listen to smug preachers railing against the evil of atheism, gleefully describing the torment we’d endure after we died.
I was very active at one time in state politics as an employee of the state Democratic Party. I got interested in running for office, but was told unless I was willing to join a church, preferably a Baptist church, I could forget about it. I listened to the U.S. president publicly state that “atheists should not be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots.” On those few occasions where I let people know about my lack of belief, reactions ranged from supercilious pity (“You poor, pitiful lost soul…I will pray for you that you may see the light.”) to outright hostility.
I was a scoutmaster for 10 years, well liked and appreciated by the kids and their parents. But, the entire time I knew that if a parent ever found out that I was an atheist; I would have been immediately removed. With all that, and more, do you really wonder why I have a general disdain for religion and all the wonderful things it does for our society? Throughout my life, religious belief has been nothing but a sword hanging over my head, ready to fall the moment my lack thereof was discovered. Do you really wonder why I would like to see that sword broken and cast into the forge?
There really are two different types of people in the world: religious and non-religious. Your final sentence about the appeal that 'the Christianity of the Gospels shines like the sun' really means nothing to me. I knocked my head on church doors for years thinking something was wrong with me that I couldn't understand what is meant by statements like that. Finally, just like coming out, I realized that I'm just not that sort of person and to hear of a whole conference of people feeling the same way about God is just like hearing of rumors of gay bars where... everyone is GAY!
Dennett a atheist bigot? Really? He is as intellectually opposed to fundamentalism as you are. He also speaks of being deeply moved by religious icons and music in very personal terms. He even says that the world is better off with them (contrary to your best buddy Hitchens who in no uncertain terms says religion is a net evil). His primary "atheist" contention is that everyone should be exposed to comparative religion(main beliefs, tenants, etc), beyond that teach children which ever you like. His primary contention is that religions that are truly good, will have no problem being exposed to the beliefs of others. Calling a circular argument/statement (God is god behind god), is not bigotry. Creating an argument that rests upon itself, is intellectually devoid of value.
First you declare that an atheist meeting is "one big snarky smugfest", but then in the next breath you declare Scientology "The Super Adventure Club." What makes Christianity any more believable than Scientology? What is the difference between worshiping Xenu and worshiping a Zombie Carpenter? What makes Christianity superior to Pagan beliefs, Muslim beliefs, Nordic Beliefs or Hindu Beliefs? The double standard is disgusting and quite obvious that you only advocate "one" religion and not another. If you want to be critical of "snarky smug" atheists and in the same breath berate other religions, I suggest you take a good look at your own beliefs and imagine seeing them from the point of view of someone who doesn't believe in them, and then tell me who belongs in a super adventure club.
An atheist pointing out that a sound-byte is intellectually vacuous is not "bigotry". It is not based on hatred, or discrimination, or anything but adherence to the rigorous demands of our own intellect. If the Creationists, ID supporters, and theists in general want to run with the big boys, they should expect to be treated like everyone else on the field. If they say meaningless things, they deserved to be called on them. Why should we be expected to hold our fire? As you were so fond of saying during the Palin farce, deference, please!
Your complaints about atheists seem to center on their tone - the fact that Dennet is not "really charming" when exposing some vacuous statements masquerading as spirituality. (They're not all rude - your debate with Sam Harris was respectful on both sides). But perhaps they have a right to be a bit rude - they are the most unpopular minority in the USA, with no chance of electoral representation, and they feel as if the country has been overtaken by the Christian right for the last twenty years. Plenty to be rude about, in my opinion.